Race for local radio news is hotting up in the wake of INN collapse
TV3 and Thomas Crosbie Holdings are considering joining Newstalk and UTV in the imminent fight for a long-term contract to supply news services to 18 local radio stations.
The sought-after contract has been advertised in recent days, three months after the collapse of local news provider INN.
Communicorp's Newstalk has been providing an interim service to 17 of the stations, while UTV has been servicing Galway Bay FM, along with its own five operations.
Interested parties have been given until Thursday to apply for a longer-term contract, which is expected to run from April for at least a year.
Both UTV and Newstalk have already begun canvassing local radio stations, stressing the merits of their offerings. They have drawn up proposals for the long-term contract.
TV3 boss David McRedmond confirmed that his station was "considering" making a bid but said it would only go ahead "if it made commercial sense".
Meanwhile, Thomas Crosbie Holdings boss Anthony Dinan said he was "looking at it" but had not yet made a decision.
A group of former INN staffers who previously bid for the interim contracts are not expected to enter the process this time around.
Industry sources said the contract process could result in all 18 stations going with one news provider or they could split between different services.
"At the end of the day, both (Newstalk and UTV) are good products, so this thing is going to come down to the terms," said one radio executive.
Bidding groups can offer to provide news services for a fee or by taking over a number of advertising 'spots' from each station and then using the revenue from those.
UTV Radio Ireland boss Ronan McManamy has insisted that his group will continue to provide news services for its own stations, regardless of the outcome of the new tender.
"We're totally happy with what we have. If people come on board with us, happy days -- if they don't, then we're still in a very happy place with our news services," he said.
Newstalk boss Frank Cronin said he had not yet run the numbers on how many stations they would need to make their news-services operation commercially viable.
He added: "Obviously, we would be looking to keep what we have. I think there are also advantages for the industry from being in a block."